COVID-19 media update, 24 March

News article

24 March 2020

A update on the All of Government COVID-19 National Response on 24 March, 2020.


  • All of Government Controller John Ombler – update on Covid-19 national response
  • Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health – health update
  • Iona Holsted, Secretary for Education – education update
  • Paul Stocks, Deputy Chief Executive MBIE – essential services update.

Intensive care and ventilator capacity in district health boards information is now available.

Summary of the health update

View video of the media briefing.

  • Dr Bloomfield told media there are 40 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand as at 10 am this morning. 
  • We also have 3 new probable cases.  In these cases, the person has returned a negative laboratory result, but the clinician treating the person has diagnosed them as a probable case due to their exposure history and clinical symptoms.  
  • Dr Bloomfield says these cases are treated as if they were a positive laboratory confirmed case and the actions taken are the same as for confirmed cases, that is self-isolation and active contact tracing.  
  • He has confirmed 12 cases that we can confirm are recovered.  We will be updating this number also on a daily basis.
  • So far, we have information on around one third of the cases reported today and all of those have a link to overseas travel, including being in the same household as someone who has returned from overseas, or they have attended a known event where transmission was occurring (e.g. World Hereford cattle conference in Queenstown recently) or are close contacts of a confirmed case.
  • Dr Bloomfield told media that recent travel from overseas is still the main driver of our new infections.  Anybody who has recently travelled from overseas should already be in strict self-isolation.  Close household contacts should be particularly vigilant for any symptoms they may develop.
  • More than 900 laboratory tests were carried out yesterday, bringing the total number of completed tests to over 8300.
  • Dr Bloomfield reiterated the preparation to move New Zealand to Alert level 4. There is a clear consensus that the sooner we do this the better and this gives New Zealand our best chance of breaking the chain of community transmission.  This will require all our efforts and he  strongly urged all New Zealanders to play their part.
  • Dr Bloomfield says 6 cases are in hospital all stable, and none of the cases have required intensive care treatment to date. He said we are finding more cases and that's what we want to do and we are increasing capacity to test and to contact trace.
  • He told media there is nothing restricting testing. What the expanded lab capacity, this will mean there can be intensive testing in any areas of clusters, such as various communities.
  • He confirmed health services including primary care, pharmacies and hospitals are crucial and will remain open during Alert level 4.
  • Dr Bloomfield said we are concerned generally about vulnerability of people in aged and residential care facilities and a fortnight ago we proposed stopping visitors- providers did that and have since tightened up criteria too.
  • He said hospitals have received information about a policy for visitors. Visitors won't be banned from tomorrow, but there will be significant restrictions.
  • Pregnant women are not considered at a higher risk than any other adult. But many pregnant women will already be self-isolating. 
  • Dr Bloomfield talked about the time it takes for test results to return and says we would be aiming to get the swab of the patient to the test result within 48 hours. People should be self-isolating until they get that result. 
  • Five people are being cared for in our hospitals in negative pressure rooms with the use of PPE. I'm sure everyone will be looking to minimise the risk to their families of COVID-19.
  • We have a stocktake of our supply both in our DHBs and national supply. We have a lot more being produced - in particular masks. Initial production of 200,000 masks a day is being increased in our Wanganui factory.
  • He said where we think there might be community spread of COVID-19, we actively trace through the chain and make sure those people are in self isolation.

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